Last week one of our regular sold us a couple of records and one of them was Jay-Z’s masterpiece, The Black Album. It wasn’t until this morning that I was able to put the record on the turntable in the store and listen to an album that I have heard hundreds of times.
I know for me one of the best things about collecting records is that holding the artwork and listening to the music is that it transports back to a different time and place. Whether you’re listening to an album from the 60’s and you weren’t born until 1985 or you’ve bought an album that you owned on CD or cassette, vinyl is a gateway to dreams or memories.
I had a burned CD copy of The Black Album not long after it was originally released. Listening to The Black Album this morning takes me back to a time when I was the general manager of chicken finger and hot wing restaurant in Oxford Mississippi. Back by the dish pit we had a small boombox and I left one of those CD wallets that held 10 or 12 CDs. I arrived at work before any of my employees and played whatever I wanted while I worked on scheduling 40 employees or ordering enough tenders for the week. My employees knew that after they clocked in and started setting up the kitchen they were free to put on whatever music they wanted. Some of them brought in their own CDs but often times they would play what I had. By far the most popular CD in that kitchen for over a year was The Black Album.
So as I am sitting in Driver 8 Records on a hot Tuesday and easing into my work week, I am reminded of the guys I opened that restaurant with. I spent many mornings with Devin, Brian or Maurice listening to Jay-Z brag and brag and brag. The Black Album was supposed to Jay-Z’s final album, he said so over and over again on the album. But clearly he changed his mind. There aren’t many positive memories from my time running that restaurant, that line of work is designed to chew you up and spit you out, but as I type this the music blasting out of the speakers has filled me with nothing but happiness. I can see those dudes rapping the lyrics to themselves in the calm of a kitchen that hasn’t started serving customers yet. I can recall the smell of the cleaning products and feel the grease that seems to seep into your pants and shirts. The Black Album is a triumphant record and I can remember the sense of pride when we had weeks of selling lots and lots of chicken. I was reaching my 30’s and like the album I thought I had arrived at something good, like I had achieved something. In lots of respects I was flat wrong, but I guess I feel the same way about opening Driver 8.
I haven’t seen any of the folks that I worked with in more than a decade and I have no idea if they even remember me, much less if they remember how many times we listened to The Black Album together. But the power of music and records to conjure memories isn’t a two way street. And that’s ok.
There is part of me that wants to take this copy of The Black Album to my house and put it in my personal collection. But I think the better move is to listen to it each morning as I open the store until the day that someone walks in and needs it for their memories. And if you walk by the store and catch me dancing please don’t laugh, I am 100% caught up in the moment.